Provocative and sensual work, exhibited in a virtual film noir.
The Future Perfect (digital exhibition)
August – September 2020
“IT’S PART REBELLION, part romance,” furniture designer Mark Grattan reflects. “Allowing a popular movement to dictate your aesthetics is a trap. I’m often pushed to the other side, where things are more seasoned – furniture that tells a story with a plot and climax. ”
At the helm of Mexico-city based studio VIDIVIXI, Grattan has a strong affinity for the various facets and figures of 20th century design. His meticulously crafted limited-edition beds, tables, and sideboards seamlessly blend elements that hint at different movements, including the historically opposed Art Deco and Modernist styles. “What’s wrong with bringing them together,” he candidly defends. “It’s like saying you can’t eat watermelon with salt and pepper, or two men can’t have a child together. You can’t put a style or movement in a box. Everything comes from different places.” Grattan’s minimalistic, yet expressive and deeply referential work proves this point, distilling a complex range of ideas and references into striking furnishings and objects.
Debuted virtually with American design gallery The Future Perfect, these unabashedly sleek works assemble as architectonic and monumental forms, but also undulate with subtle textures and iridescent surfaces. The low lying, Japanese-inspired ‘Docked en Rio’ platform bed frame is amassed from modular cross-sections that curve into themselves, while the ‘Hermanx Auxiliary Table’ incorporates a bulky interlocking U-shaped wooden rod base. Also evident in the square ‘Café Con Leche’ occasional table, this intertwined system amplifies and compresses to accentuate the S-bends and connections that hold everything together. While the actual tabletop is formed out of a five-sided tinted glass box, the sculptural framework remains the main focal point.
One of the underlying traits of the designer’s work is sensuality. “I am a dancer and enjoy moving my body,” he explains. “The human body is quite beautiful. It’s my temple. I respect the concept of physical health and work hard to take care of myself. As a reflection of that, it’s no surprise that the work is provocative and sensual. This aspect is a fundamental anchor in the process and evolution of VIDIVIXI. It’s a message of sensitivity and tenderness which coincides with discipline, tough love, and passion.”
To debut this collection, the designer collaborated with multidisciplinary studio Major Visual’s Douglas Fenton to create a digitally-rendered mise-en-scène. Visible through an online video and interactive displays hosted by The Future Perfect, all seven works are given individualised attention and act as protagonists within a sultry film noir-cum-old fashioned detective movie narrative.
“The challenge of presenting this work through a virtual platform was not so much [about] being able to show the pieces’ physical attributes,” Grattan adds. “Instead, it was more about finding the right storyline. Securing a concept that was balanced with drama and simplicity didn’t come easy.”
Grattan came to the creative domain at an early age. He dabbled in everything from landscape architecture and woodworking to baking, sewing, and even mural painting. “After my Mother’s death, when I was young, I learned about my ancestry and all the creatives that are part of my family tree. There were landscape architects, woodworkers, bakers, and even mural painters,” the designer recalls. “I discovered that this was the inherited source for my deep-seated infatuation with objects, and their relationship to space, how both elements can have such an impact on my emotional and physical welfare.”
During his time at Pratt Institute in New York, Grattan switched from studio art to design studies. Disillusioned by the realities of the former, he found purpose in the latter. “My father had been a hobby woodworker,” he reflects. “The technical nature of industrial design seemed more secure and, as long as it could still incorporate the creative aspect, it was the right fit for me.”
Grattan’s understanding and appreciation of object-making is informed by the tangible aspects of sculpture making. “It’s the starting point of furniture,” he affirms. “Furniture is sculpture, but in contrast [with it], can perform functionally, and I can visualise it domestically, unlike art, where I often run in circles attempting to articulate my experience. My love of furniture comes from growing up in the countryside, where you learn how to use your hands: lift, build, chop, and fix things. Getting things done independently is fulfilling and intellectually rewarding. I learned how to problem-solve with ten fingers instead of nine numbers on the landline.”
The designer began his career by participating in a 2006 The Future Perfect exhibition entitled Too Cool for School. From there, he went on to establish his own Industry City, Brooklyn-based studio and joined the growing makers’ movement of the time. “Being a designer was fun. It was forever ‘clicky’, but a legitimate community of love and support for one another — lots of group shows and beer,” Grattan recalls. “I’m no longer in New York, but I have a hunch things have shifted. My peers have all given birth and settled down.”
Grattan moved to Mexico City in 2016, to “follow a boy” as he describes. Though that ended after three years, he discovered and immersed himself in the metropolis’s burgeoning creative scene. “I’m the type of person that takes big chances then passes everything off for the universe to deal with. I appreciate how it’s responded,” he cheekily admits. “The beginning of my quest for furniture manufacturing and prototype development in Mexico City was problematic. It wasn’t at all like going into a pizza shop, placing your order, and walking out with a hot pie. There were politics and procedures I needed to adopt. It took three years, and we’re still not there. Luckily, my business partner Adam Caplowe has since come on board.”
VIDIVIXI has since grown into a world-renowned firm. Though he no longer produces works by hand independently, Grattan has established successful relationships with the best Mexican producers. “We prototype with institutions rather than in the comfort of the studio,” he concludes. “I miss the romanticism and therapeutic benefits of working in the shop, but still enjoy the process of watching pencil sketches develop into whole moods and personalities: new designs. The advantage of outsourcing production within Mexico has allowed us to access processes we didn’t know existed – or could afford – stateside. I’m no longer restricted by the walls of a woodshop, but rather exposed to a buffet of material capabilities.” The VIDIVIXI Collection shows the benefits, combining the refinement and detail of craft with the uniformity and precision of industrially produced designs.